A retirement villa of a scholarly samurai, to offer a tranquil experience with its dry landscape garden.
Shisen-do Temple「詩仙堂」, known as Jozan-ji is located in northern Higashiyama of Kyoto, a less-traveled part of the city. It was established by Jozen Ishikawa (1583-1672), a scholarly samurai and landscape architect.
After he retired from samurai service with Tokugawa Ieyasu in 1615, He devoted the rest of his life to learning Chinese classics.
Shisen-do was built in 1641 as his retirement villa, when he was 59. The main building resembles a large thatched hut. The name “Shisendo” means “Hall of Great Poets”. It features a collection of 36 masterful portraits of ancient Chinese poets displayed.
After entering a simple rustic bamboo gate, a stone path surrounded by a bamboo grove leads you to the temple. “Shisen no ma”, a viewing room of the main building, overlooks a picturesque garden of white sand with azaleas and maple trees. These azalea bushes represent islands in the sea.
The garden is particularly beautiful with azaleas in May, and red maple leaves in November. You may rarely see the garden covered with snow in winter. It’s absolutely stunning scenery.
There is a small pond with koi carp in the garden. And “senmo-baku”, a small waterfall, feeds a “shishi odoshi”, a bamboo pipe see-saw device which gradually fills with water at one end and makes a distinctive pleasing sound. Visitors can experience the tranquility and the masterpiece of nature.
You can explore more spots in this area as Shisen-do is near to a number of temples, including Manshu-in, Konpuku-ji and Enko-ji Temple. It’s probably the best area in the city to explore without crowds. Hachidai Shrine, next to Shisen-do, has a statue of Miyamoto Musashi, the famous Edo Period swordsman as he fought one of his many legendary battles near this shrine.
Address : 27 Monguchi-machi, Ichijoji, Sakyo-ku, Kyoto
Hours : 9:00 to 17:00
Admission : 500 Yen
Access : 15-minute walk from Ichijoji station on the Eizan main.
Bus : from Kyoto station, take bus #5 to Ichijoji-kudari-matsumachi bus stop, and 5-minute walk from there.